tv Al Jazeera World News LINKTV January 22, 2013 7:00pm-7:30pm PST
i'm an american, i've been brought up on american films, story and narrative. call it classical, traditional or old fashioned, i'm drawn to those forms, try to stick them. "get back home" is a basic action. you've seen it before, it's called "ulysses." and if you don't think it works there, it's really terrific when it's "e.t." annenberg media ♪ and: with additional funding from these foundations and individuals:
and by: and the annual financial support of: hello, i'm john lithgow. welcome to "american cinema," a 1o-part series that looks at a great american success story of the 20th century. american film is international, popular the world over. from japan to france to brazil, their appeal is universal. what makes a hollywood movie a hollywood movie?
is it the story? is it the style? or is it the director? well, it's all of these and more. for almost a hundred years, the american film industry has produced films that have truly engaged the audience. pure entertainment, these films are a sophisticated art form, using highly skilled craftsmen and technological know-how. the style of these films, perfected in the 20s and 30s, isn't easy to see. in fact the classic hollywood style is almost invisible. but that is its aim: to make you, the audience, so involved with the story, so identified with characters that you don't notice the sets, the camera angles or the editing, any of the filmcraft that created this special world. in this program, narrated by joe morton, america's greatest directors will usher you through 70 years of talking pictures
and show you "the hollywood style." (piano music playing) (narrator) once upon a time, it was discovered that americans liked stories more than anything else. stories that were fables about characters with whom they could identify. the business people enlisted all of the best storytellers. and together they developed a style of storytelling on a scale previously unimagined.
soon the system they created and the stories they produced captured the whole world. (music playing) (bertrand tavernier) american cinema is international like fairytales were international in the 18th or 19th century. (bertrand tavernier) and it's always worked on the identification level. and it succeeded. i mean, brilliantly. there's emerald city. oh, we're almost there, at last, at last! it's beautiful, isn't it? just like i knew it would be. he really must be a wonderful wizard. well, c'mon then, what are we waitin' for? nothing. let's hurry.
(sydney pollack) one thing that made filmgoing such a wonderful experience is it was kind of a dazzling... journey that you took to a place and a life that bore little resemblance to your own. (sydney pollack) you measured the success of it by the distance between you and that world. pardon me, folks, would you like the thrill of your lives? simply by sitting down in a magic chair? sure. c'mon, son. he's not talking to us. i'm talking to everyone who loves adventure. romance, mystery, danger! the magic chair takes you back in history 2000 years. back to the time of nero and thrill of a chariot race.
now you're part of the race. your heart is pounding as you speed over the ground with your fellow romans. (josepth mankiewicz) what they forget is: the size of the audience that wanted to escape, not to a different galaxy, not to a different world but to their own world as they wanted it to be. (sydney pollack) you knew you wouldn't stand in the fog in a trenchcoat, watch ingrid bergman go up a gangplank, you know, with somebody else, but it broke your heart watching this. then you'd out into the daylight of a midwestern street and the distance between your life and that life was enormous. and that was part of its success. (narrator) the success of motion pictures turned america into moviegoers.
at the height of hollywood in the mid-40's, 90 million americans went to the movies every week. audiences developed preferences for the movies they watched. (announcer) this woman wants more musical shows. these boys want more westerns. these girls, more love stories. this man, more adventure. others want more travel, comedy, mystery, romance. more everything. ♪ it had to be you ♪ it had to be you ♪ i wandered around ♪ and finally found ♪ somebody who ... ♪ (sydney pollack) i am strongly influenced by the films i saw as a kid. if you call them classical or traditional or old fashioned, depending on your point of view. i'm so drawn to those forms and i try to stick to them.
(sydney pollack) when i grew up love stories were dependent upon obstacles. and the great love stories were dependent upon non-overcomeable obstacles. inside of us we both know you belong with victor. if that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him you'll regret it. maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. what about us? we'll always have paris. we ... we'd lost it until you came to casablanca. we got it back last night. i don't remember a great love story in which the two people got together. the love stories i always remember were always
tragic love stories. here's looking at you, kid. (sydney pollack) most of the films i've done have been unhappy love stories of one form or another. (sydney pollack) there is satisfying sadness just as pleasurable to feel as the sort of humorous, giddy laughter of a comedy or a happy ending film. see ya, hubble. i can't make a comparison between old films and this film but in feeling, it was a film that
was strongly influenced by those older love stories. i come out of the narrative tradition those are the films that i first saw, and those films made the biggest impression on me. (martin scorsese) costume dramas were the genre that i really enjoyed. and a key film for me, the emotion for me, of a costume drama, that stays in my mind is when i saw "the heiress" back in 1949, 1950 i was 8 or 9 years old. and it was very powerful. (martin scorsese) and the remarkable ending with montgomery clift pounding on the door. katherine... katherine...
katherine! katherine! (narrator) in scorsese's costume drama "the age of innocence" the director draws heavily on a tradition he inherited from previous hollywood films. his approach reflects his own identity as a filmmaker. pretty close. i'm an american, i've been brought up on films, i was raised on american films, meaning story and narrative. and in most cases, everything is at the service of the narrative of the story. he walks out here, great. (narrator) each directorial decision on "the age of innocence" is based on how to efficiently and expressively drive the story forward for an audience.
if it's no looser than this they can't go ... (playing "strauss waltz") (narrator) how the camera moves, what it sees, the actors' expressions. it is all designed to sweep an audience into the drama. a grand style of storytelling developed from the early days. (martin scorsese) i still watch old films i would love to direct like the old directors did. (waltz music playing)
(narrator) in the halcyon of hollywood so many films were produced it lured the finest talent, drawn by the lavish production, by the creative ferment, by the chance to perfect techniques of filmmaking still in the process of refinement. (martin scorsese) the old hollywood had this wonderful method, it was like a factory. so therefore each studio made a couple hundred films a year. (martin scorsese) and there were so many people that influenced each other and they all wound up in the same place. i think it was a very -- exciting 20, 30, 40 years with so much going on, everyone influencing each other.
(martin scorsese) trying this new thing and trying that. and murnau just came out of germany. hawks tried that in one film, and then went back and said "i'm not doing that again." "that's for murnau, not for me." and they really redefined their styles. they became very much -- they found out who they were, these filmmakers, and they did so accordingly with each film. (narrator) the hollywood style began as a studio style, based on a model of mass production. a handful of major studios employing thousands of workers manufactured films in a factory-like environment. (narrator) they were run by iron-fisted moguls who churned out stories with assembly-line efficiency. although studios have faded, crafts people working today -- production designers, editors, cinematographers, writers -- continue to employ basic stylistic principles
established in the studio era. they could do more pictures in a week than i could do in a lifetime; they never did them alone. (richard sylbert) they had huge departments. (dede allen) in the days of the 30's everything was studio structure everybody worked for the studio. harry cohn at columbia, not only saw dailies, he knew how to look at dailies. (allen daviau) the first thing they looked at was how the stars looked. the cinematographer was under a great deal of pressure to deliver mood, to deliver drama, to deliver all the texture that the story demanded and at the same time keep the stars looking as good as the studio expected them to look. a strong structure watched over the technique of the pictures and enforced certain rules.
(richard sylbert) one thing about the old system was that you actually designed the entire movie. you made all these choices. it was a world you created. it wasn't a world you went out and found. (narrator) it was the director on the set who orchestrated each craft in the storytelling process -- scripting, costume, production, lighting, camera movement, editing, acting -- supported by an army of experts working together to achieve the most emotionally compelling result. (director) all right, freddy, you know. you've been after the girl, unsuccessfully. so this time very tender, very earnest and very sincere and rather quiet. you all ready, duke? all right, roll 'em! in the days of the studio system they had everybody under contract.
(robert towne) they had a bungalow for writers, you would find benchley, parker, fitzgerald, sidney buckman, row by row. so it was much more efficient to say "let fitzgerald do the love scene, let parker do the comedy scene. let buckman make sure it's structured properly." just monkeys on a typewriter. but they were clever monkeys. that's what happened in "casablanca," ...at least, as i understand it. there was this fellow who wrote the play, everybody comes to ricks. then the epstein brothers got involved in rewriting it. then howard koch got involved in rewriting it. and out of this potpourri came this marvelous movie. ♪ you must remember this ♪ a kiss is just a kiss ... ♪ a sigh is just a sigh ♪ (narrator) "casablanca." one of the greatest love stories ever told was made in 1942 in consummate studio style.
at least six writers worked on the script. the cast included 34 nationalities. but what truly engaged audiences in "casablanca" was not the dialects, but the way it was directed, lit, photographed, acted and edited. hollywood filmmaking at its height, so effortless, so masterful it's invisible to the audience. ♪ ... as time goes by ♪ sam, i thought i told you never to play -- (richard sylbert) the way i was brought up the only thing left on the screen is the story and the actors. everyone else should disappear. (martin scorsese) because it's deceptive, because it's more subtle it's harder to see. but it's not invisible. if you learn how to look at it it's not invisible. it's very, very precise and really very artful. cameramen like harry stradling that i began with and kaufman,
the point was to do something so well that nobody noticed it. (allen daviau) camera technique grew into a set of rules. an image could be beautiful but not so beautiful as to draw attention to itself. nor should the technique of camera movement nor cutting draw attention to itself. i remember a very sweet editor who did ann miller pictures at columbia when i was starting out. and he would bring me in and show me, "now you always start with a long shot. and then you work your way into the closer shots. and then over shoulder and then close-ups." in other words, you were taught a formal way. here's looking at you, kid. this polished surface became much more important, that the audience wasn't to notice cuts, the audience wasn't to notice camera movement. which was to the good in terms of non-interrupting the story. what i learned was to try to make editing seamless.
you should never be aware of cuts. you want to feel as though that scene is taking place in front of your eyes as you speak, looking at a proscenium arch but you're much closer, you're much more involved. (david bordwell) so that in some sense the style is illusionistic. are you ready, ilsa? yes, i'm ready. (david bordwell) the style is saying, "come into this world." bye, rick. god bless you. better hurry or you'll miss that plane. the audience isn't distracted from following the story and the characters' flow by an uncertainty about the style itself. (narrator) the invisible style perfected in "casablanca" was reproduced in picture after picture. but hollywood was flexible, encouraging its best directors
to bring their own individual flair and eccentricity to a house studio style. howard hawks was one director who obeyed hollywood's rules but still bring his understated slightly ironic stamp to a legendary gangster picture like "scarface." we just collected actors and went ahead and made it. and the whole thing was a challenge and a lot of fun, especially to have it turn out very well and become kind of a legend. a regular audience would look at it and say, it's a gangster picture and really enjoyable and great and the bad guy gets his at the end and all that. but when you go, there's something extra, there's something glowing from the screen, that comes out of the blacks and whites of it. it becomes like silver. you can really see the silver and the nitrate coming through. and when you go to look at it and you go to study it (martin scorsese) and you realize photography's a certain way, the angle of the camera.
again, the invisible style. very much hawks' invisible style. and the use of the x's and the crosses every time somebody's killed. you don't notice it at first. but then it's more fun (martin scorsese) when you see the film a second time. wanna dance with me? (martin scorsese) the use of music. when ann dvorak tries to dance. she tries to get george raft to dance with her. just watch that scene. how the camera -- how she moves, you know. it's a very special film. (music playing) you like that music?
(narrator) howard hawks told his stories simply and economically. other directors liked to play the showman. (narrator) orson welles is one of the legendary storytellers. from "citizen kane," to his later films, he tried to push the limits of hollywood style. rosebud ... (richard sylbert) orson welles is the man who started the showing off. he, in 1948 or -9, whatever, at 24 years of age he came out and said, "now i'm going to show you what a director looks like." ever since, we've used his idea not quite as well as he did. (richard sylbert) but he began the director as star.
(martin scorsese) i became very enamored of what you can do with film, what you can do in the editing room with film, what you can do with a camera moving. the first time i realized what a director did was when i saw "citizen kane" on tv with orson welles. however, i was very cognizant of a style, beauty and poetry, let's say, in john ford. if you had asked me what john ford did i couldn't tell you he put the camera a certain way and he used a red filter in black-and-white films to make the clouds come out. and he shot it a certain way so that the dust came up and it was an incredible, an incredible, terrible beauty. what device do i want to use to be able to get this idea and this emotion across? wherever i can get it, get the inspiration, fine. i try to find the best device, even if it's a simple device of holding the camera static with an actor moving across and not moving and not cutting. that's the danger. you want to say, "well, it may be too arty. this is too much. this is overdoing it. this is overkill. this is too subtle."
now what do you do? we have to go in tighter maybe. and so i'm aware of that. it's a constant battle. (narrator) william wyler is established in the hollywood pantheon. his style was elegant and unassuming, with the perfect relationship between actor, decor, camera. (martin scorsese) wyler had a solid image. it was up there on the screen, it was unshakable. it wasn't diffused, it wasn't, "oh, i think i'll take a medium shot from the side." when he chose that camera angle it was the only angle. that kind of breaks the monotony. he devised with greg toland, the deep focal length lens, how everybody was in focus in wide shots.
we always think of the audience. i remember michael powell said, "i never think of the audience." i would say that, too, "i never think of the audience." what he meant was that we can't think of, "what is the audience going to think?" we know that a certain angle, a certain camera move, a certain line of dialogue, a certain cut is going to ... we think will create a certain impression emotionally and psychologically in the audience. this process of frightening is done by means of a medium, the medium of pure cinema is what i believe in. the assembly of pieces of film to create fright is the essential part of my job. (martin scorsese) one of the things that makes hitchcock's films still to this day so enjoyable, and even if you know the story it doesn't matter. you can watch it over again,
was because he thought of the audience so much. help. help me. (gunshot) i just looked at "rear window" again on the weekend. there's this incredible moment where he's sitting alone (martin scorsese) and a shadow covers his face. and he opens his eyes and you see this beautiful face. and this point of view is just you're there. you are him. you are him at that moment. and you just see the most beautiful face. oh, it's very, very seductive. the point of view means that it's exactly, as much as possible exactly the way the character sees it.
(martin scorsese) there's so many point of view shots in terms of hitchcock. there's a few i really like in "the wrong man." there's a moment when fonda is brought to all these places. and they tell the woman, "take a look. that fella, does it look like that guy that robbed you?" it's the same. (martin scorsese) that's one of the films we studied for "taxi driver." where, utilizing this idea of the point of view, where everything goes through travis bickle's mind and eyes.
(martin scorsese) you see everything in the film through him. and that's one of the reasons we studied "the wrong man" because it has that feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia that was so perfect for "taxi driver." (robert de niro) some day a real rain'll come and wash all this scum off. what it does is it draws you right in to their world the way they see it, the way they imagine it, the way they perceive it. (ray liotta) there was jimmy and tommy (ray liotta) and me. (ray liotta) and anthony stabile. (martin scorsese) you see the person walk in and he's standing there. and then you cut to see what he sees. but the camera starts to move. it becomes his point of view. i did one of those in "goodfellas" where everybody's saying, "hi, how are you," where they're introducing the gangsters all hanging out. they're not talking to the camera. they're talking to the left, which is the main character. (ray liotta) and you had nicky eyes.